The tomatoes this summer: oy! As big as babies and as sweet as agave. I don’t think there’s a better way to use summertime tomatoes than in a quick caprese: bocconcini cheese, tomato and basil sliced, layered and drizzled with good olive oil, coarse sea salt and a bit of black pepper.
But even perfect simplicity has its limits, and now that we’re heading towards the end of summer, I’ve had it up to here with caprese salad. That’s when it’s time for an end-of-summer platter of crispy, drippy Italian bruschetta.
It’s almost as easy to make as the caprese salad! Here's my recipe.
Olive oil (to drizzle on bread)
1 clove garlic
4-5 large ripe tomatoes
Handful fresh basil leaves
Pinch of sugar
1 tsp herbs de Provence (optional)
3 tbsp olive oil
Step 1: Slice the fresh, long baguette into individual crostini sizes. Drizzle both sides of each slice with a healthy dose of olive oil, and then put them on a preheated medium-hot barbecue until they’re good and crunchy.
Step 2: When they’re hot off the grill, rub one side of each toasted round with the fat clove of garlic. Set aside.
Step 3: Core the tomatoes then coarsely chop them.
Step 4: Slice basil leaves into strips.
Step 5: Put tomatoes and basil in a bowl and mash up the mixture along with some coarse salt, black pepper, a pinch of sugar and a teaspoon of herbs de Provence (if you’ve got some on hand).
Step 6: Drain off some of the liquid and then add the 3 tablespoons of olive oil and give it another stir. Taste for seasoning. Spoon onto the platter of prepared crostini and pour some of the juice over top so that the bread soaks it up and softens up.
Farewell summer! You’ve been a particularly delicious one!
I recently published the top 100 things to do across Canada this fall, which include things like leaf-peeping, checking out festivals, sleeping at lovely inns, and going spelunking. Still, when you think about it, besides the cool-weather clothes and glorious multi-hued foliage, the best part of autumn is really the food.
Herein, I present the Top 10 food-related reasons to love fall:
10. Fresh nuts from the shell using a nutcracker.
8. Roasted vegetables: I always feel like I get an extra boost of beta-carotene in the fall.
7. Mother Nature’s broad-strokes of gold, crimson and orange, along with the harvest moon, are all vibrant reminders of the earth’s bounty. Try this lamb roast with hearty root vegetables.
6. The aroma of chimney smoke makes city streets smell like the country, which also reminds me where our food grows.
5. Halloween candy! And caramel apples!
4. Summer’s over and winter’s not yet here. Now’s the time to ride the wave of nature’s most soulful season. Sure, there’s pumpkin. But think about larger joints of meat, birds and stuffing, oily fish like sardines and mackerel, and seasonal cakes and pies (pecan, apple and the like). It’s like the holidays, minus the extra fat and humiliating office Christmas party PDAs.
3. I find the colour-burst of trees so breathtaking that I’m almost afraid to drive (I’m easily distracted). So I walk a lot, in the cool temps with a warm fleece under a blue sky. And then I reward myself with a great latte and fresh-baked treat from one of my area coffee shops.
2. Roasted chestnuts.
1. Time to make the switch from G&Ts back to red wine!
And finally, to get you in the mood for all of it, here’s a simple recipe for Kraft Caramel Apples. After all, who needs hot weather and cool lakes when you’ve got caramel apples?
5 apples (any variety will do)
1 package (340 g) Kraft Caramels
2 tbsp water
Chopped peanuts, crushed Oreos, Smarties or chocolate for decorating (optional)
Step 1: Wash and dry apples thoroughly. Insert stick into stem of each.
Step 2: Unwrap caramels and microwave with water in a large glass measure or mixing bowl on high for 3 to 3-1/2 minutes or until sauce is smooth when stirred.
Step 3: Dip apples into hot caramel sauce and turn until coated. Scrape off excess sauce from bottom of apples and decorate.
Step 4: Place on tray lined with waxed paper. Refrigerate until serving time.
For another fun fall dessert recipe, try Witches’ Fingers Cookies.
Of all the recipes I’ve blogged about on my own personal blog over the past couple of years, this one got the most feedback. I came up with the idea after a white water canoe trip down the challenging Bloodvein River in Northern Manitoba. Don’t I sound totally hard-core? “White water canoe trip”. “Northern Manitoba”.
But don’t give me too much credit. While you can give me full marks for this genius cinnamon bun recipe, the white water canoe trip was a bit of an accident. I had simply misread the itinerary and hadn’t noticed the words “white water” before the word “canoe”, probably because I never knew such a thing even existed. It wasn’t until just after our float plane — which was also ferrying our canoes upon its wings into the deepest depths of the Manitoban wilderness — had landed in the river and we were handed our helmets, that I thought, “Why would anyone need a helmet while out for a leisurely paddle on a canoe trip?” All I could figure was that they were a bunch of safety nuts up in Manitoba.
“Do I know how to stern a canoe?” I guffawed back at my guide. “Of course I know how to stern a canoe! I grew up in Ontario, after all. Canoeing is part of our proud Canadian heritage.” And then, “Um, rapids? Who the hell said anything about canoeing through class 3 rapids?!”
I almost died about fifty different ways, but had a hell of a fun time doing it. And more importantly, I got the idea for these cinnamon buns out of the ordeal, when I learned how to fashion bannock dough into pizza and cinnamon buns over an open fire in the middle of nowhere; one of many trip highlights.
When I got home, I set to work coming up with an even easier version, using pizza dough in my kitchen rather than bannock dough over a fire pit.
Here’s the simple recipe:
1 ball homemade or store-bought pizza dough (enough to make a 12” pizza)
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Step 2: Take the pizza dough and roll it out on a lightly floured surface until it’s a long rectangle, about 1/4” thick.
Step 3: Spread the dough with a generous layer of softened butter, lots of brown sugar, chopped pecans and cinnamon, making sure to leave a 1/2” of clean space around the dough’s perimeter.
Step 4: Roll lengthways into a long log and seal the edges. Set the log into a buttered baking pan, such as a pie pan, spread it with more butter and sprinkle on more brown sugar. Then slice the log into 2” rounds, turning them upright and fitting them snugly into the greased baking pan.
Step 5: Pop the pan into the preheated oven for about 30 minutes, and voila, amazing buttery hot cinnamon buns. Hooray!
For similar buns, try these Cinnamon Brioches.
Now that I have a real office job, I pack a lunch a couple of days a week, since I can’t graze at home like I normally would. (Well, I guess I could if I ate my co-workers’ food from the communal fridge, but from what I hear that is strictly frowned upon.) I’ve been quite surprised by the quality of lunch that people bring to work — veritable shopping bags full of fresh vegetables, breads, meats and cheeses. They compose yogurt parfaits for breakfast, and complex salads and sandwiches for lunch.
Based on what I’ve seen on TV all these years, I was led to believe that office workers tend to eat Big Macs at their desks, or chummy shared submarines on park benches. So I’m happy to learn that this is not the case at all. Not at House & Home magazine, anyway.
Which brings us to my sandwich conundrum. I’ve always loved a good lettuce, tomato and mayo on toasted whole wheat, but found my bread was getting soggy, and I was getting hungry, before the end of the workday — there are only so many apples and granola bars a gal can eat to round out her meal. I needed a lunchtime protein, but I’ve never bought into the whole grocery store deli meats idea and probably never will (especially since there seems to be a recall every other week).
Solution? Make my own sandwich fixins. I did this with a big bone-in turkey thigh, because I liked the size and the price was right (about $5), plus I thought it would retain more moisture than a turkey breast. (Note: you must like dark meat to make this recipe, which I do.)
Then all I did was preheat the oven to 350°F, rubbed some olive oil, salt, pepper, herbs de Provence and some fresh thyme all over the meat, and popped it into the hot oven for about an hour and a half. The turkey emerged juicy and fragrant with a cracklin’ skin. Five minutes of effort led to turkey sandwiches for the week.
For more easy lunch ideas, check out our 10 Scrumptious Sandwich Recipes.
1-2. Amy Rosen
Working here at House & Home, we get a lot of invites to a lot of events, from product launches to cocktail parties. We take turns around the office representing the magazine while also seeing what’s what. There was one recent event that four of us went to, though, because we were all interested in the 2011 sneak peek of the President’s Choice and Everyday Essentials lines of countertop appliances.
As we lunched on salads and paninis and sipped PC naturally flavoured sparkling sodas, editor in chief Suzanne Dimma, deputy editor Hilary Smyth, style editor Morgan Michener and I took turns “oohing” and “ahhing” at the smart design elements of the PC line. We were equally impressed with the unbelievable price points of the Everyday Essentials line: most are less than $20, with many costing half that.
Now, the next time your father says, “Back in my day, a corned beef on rye was a nickel, and a coffee grinder cost $10,” you can say, “Pops, my new Everyday Essentials coffee grinder was just $9.99!”
Here are five of my favourites from the vast PC lineup:
6 Slice Toaster Oven: $49.99
Marvel at the sleek mirror glass door, the groovy dials, the 120-minute timer and the six-slice capacity. But the best thing about this toaster oven is something you can’t even see. The backside is bumped out so that you can fit an entire 12” frozen pizza in it. With the money you’ll save on delivery, it’ll pay for itself in a week.
700 Watt Pure Juice Extractor: $99.99
I don’t have a juicer, but if I did this looks like a solid bet, with its solid steel construction and extra large feed chute that juices whole fruits and vegetables. Pretty enough for the counter, powerful enough to get the job done.
4 in 1 Ultimate Appliance: $79.99
This is a contact grill, panini press, open grill, and open griddle that can be used in the open, flat or closed position; the floating back hinge automatically adjusts to the thickness of your sandwiches or burgers. You can make flapjacks on one half while frying bacon on the other. Use your free hand to set the breakfast table.
Electric Knife: $12.99
The last time I saw someone using a carving knife, Reagan was still in power. But it looks like the electric knife is back. We’re about to photograph the recipes for the November issue’s turkey feast, so be sure to pick one up for the big bird before the holidays.
Popcorn Maker: $14.99
Are you like me, and think you’re slowly being poisoned by microwaveable popcorn? Maybe it’s time to make the switch with this cheap and cheerful eight-cup capacity air popper that pops your kernels in four minutes flat, sans oil.
For more kitchen favourites, check out our Top Five Kitchen Gadgets video.
What’s in season right now? Corn! Wonderful, crunchy, dribbly, squirty, summery Ontario sweet corn. It’s my favourite time of year. Even better than Christmas break. I love it!
When the tender sunny yellow and white kernels are at their peak, I’ve been known to mow down on five cobs at one sitting, stand up for a minute, then sit down and eat three more.
And while I never get tired of slathering corn with butter and salt, or even eating it dead plain when the timing is just right, lately I’ve been thinking about expanding my repertoire and trying it char-grilled. You know, the type you see at street-side stands in Mexico, Thailand and even your local Little India.
When I saw a recipe and video for Grilled Corn, Mexican Style in Mark Bittman’s The Minimalist column in The New York Times last week, I knew it had hit critical mass. And I knew I had to try it. So I did. And it was totally amazing: At once smoky, tart, sweet and spicy.
In other words, my summertime obsession has just crossed into “stalker” territory. Try this recipe tonight and get hooked.
4 ears of corn, husked
1/4 cup mayonnaise
Juice of 1 large lime, or to taste
1/4 tsp chili powder, or to taste
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Step 1: Husk your corn and throw the cobs on a medium-hot grill, rotating them often until they are nice and uniformly charred, and fully cooked. It should take about 10 minutes to achieve this.
Step 2: Mix together mayonnaise and lime juice and stir the thin sauce together.
Step 3: In a separate small bowl, mix together chili powder, salt and pepper.
Step 4: To serve, have guests grab a cob, spoon some of the lime mayo overtop, sprinkle with a few pinches of chili salt, and then dig in. Crazy addictive stuff.
For more great recipes with corn, click here.
Chef Scott Conant, of New York City’s Scarpetta restaurant posted an ‘Open Letter to Toronto’ at The Huffington Post a couple of weeks ago, just ahead of the grand opening of his latest Scarpetta restaurant, in the new Thompson Hotel on Toronto’s Wellington Street. His blog post starts off a little cringe-worthy:
“Dear Toronto (or, "T-Dot", as I've learned you're affectionately called):
You don't really know me -- and that's okay. I'd just like to introduce myself. My name is Scott Conant and I'm a chef… I have this restaurant in New York City, where I live. I call it "Scarpetta." I don't know if you're into etymology or anything like that, but in Italian (that's the kind of food I cook) Scarpetta means "little shoe" -- but it's also Italian slang for when you take a little piece of bread and sop up all the sauce left up on your plate. I like the name, because that's what I'm always trying to do -- make food that people will really want to enjoy down to the last bite, drop, whatever. Just good, honest food, Toronto -- cool?”
It’s odd that the acerbic judge from Food Network’s Chopped seems to be pandering to Toronto foodies. That said; I’d be afraid too if I was about to open a new restaurant in a swanky new hotel in a big city in a foreign country, especially in this economy.
But someone should have informed the chef that, culinary wise, anyway, he has nothing to worry about. Toronto has grown up over the past decade. And we like sopping up our food. And we welcome newcomers. Always have. Especially since the 1970s when Trudeau opened the floodgates to immigration, our multicultural influences have bloomed to include almost 100 different countries, their unique cuisines remaining mostly unadulterated and largely delightful.
It has been said that while America is a melting pot — everything mixed together to form a new type of stew — Canada is a salad bowl: fresh, vibrant, with each ingredient remaining recognizable and unto itself.
However, a new breed of clever Toronto chefs has been challenging that notion with an original type of cuisine, one where the world comes together in the Land of Tasty. I’m specifically thinking of Lee’s Susur Lee, Origin’s Claudio Aprile, Nota Bene’s David Lee and Foxley Bistro’s Tom Thai.
That said, we still love our straight-up ethnicities, Italian being one of our faves. And after tasting some of Chef Conant’s rustic Italian dishes at a pre-opening cocktail party — I particularly enjoyed the creamy polenta with a fricassee of truffled mushrooms, roasted radishes with brown butter and sunflower seeds, and perfect spaghetti with tomato and basil — Scarpetta should be a welcome addition to Toronto’s vibrant dining scene, so the chef needn’t worry.
But he should also know that we never call ourselves the T-Dot.
He got some bad advice on that count.
(makes 4 servings)
Says the chef: “This is a straightforward, traditional, fresh tomato sauce in which ripe tomatoes — and little else — get cooked quickly to retain their vibrant flavour. Why then is it such a hit? The key is in the finish. Here’s how I put the dish together at the restaurant: I take a single portion of pasta cooked just shy of al dente and add it to a sauté pan that holds a single portion of hot, bubbling tomato sauce. To toss the pasta and sauce together, I use that pan-jerking method we chefs are so fond of. I do this to look cool. Just kidding. The real reason is that this technique not only coats the pasta evenly with the sauce, but it also introduces a little air into the process, making the dish feel lighter and brighter. To accomplish this aeration with larger portions and without fancy wrist work, cook the sauce in a pan with a lot of surface area. When you add the pasta to the sauce, gently toss the pasta with a couple of wooden spoons (tongs can bruise and break the strands), lifting the pasta high above the bottom of the pot. Finish the dish with some butter, cheese and basil.”
About 20 ripe plum tomatoes
About 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more to finish the dish
Pinch of crushed red pepper
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 oz. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 1/2 cup)
6-8 fresh basil leaves, well washed and dried, stacked and rolled into a cylinder and cut thinly crosswise into a chiffonade
1 lb. spaghetti, either high-quality dry or homemade
Step 1: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Have a large bowl of ice water nearby. Cut a small X on the bottom of each tomato. Ease about five tomatoes in the pot and cook, let boil for about 15 seconds, and then promptly move them to the waiting ice water. (Do this with the remaining tomatoes.) Pull off the skin with the tip of a paring knife. If the skin sticks, try a vegetable peeler using a gentle sawing motion. Cut the tomatoes in half and use your finger to flick out the seeds.
Step 2: In a wide pan, heat the 1/3 cup of olive oil over medium-high heat until quite hot. Add the tomatoes, red pepper flakes, and season lightly with the salt and pepper. (I always start with a light hand with the salt and pepper because as the tomatoes reduce, the salt will become concentrated.) Let the tomatoes cook for a few minutes to soften. Then, using a potato masher, chop the tomatoes finely. Cook the tomatoes for 20-25 minutes, until the tomatoes are tender and the sauce has thickened. (You can make the sauce, which yields about 3 cups, ahead of time. Refrigerate it for up to 2 days or freeze it for longer storage.)
Step 3: Bring a large pot of amply salted water to a boil. Cook the spaghetti until just shy of al dente. Reserve a little of the pasta cooking water. Add the pasta to the sauce and cook over medium-high heat, gently tossing the pasta and the sauce together with a couple of wooden spoons and a lot of exaggerated movement (you can even shake the pan) until the pasta is just tender and the sauce, if any oil had separated from it, now looks cohesive. (If the sauce seems too thick, add a little pasta cooking liquid to adjust it.) Take the pan off of the heat and toss the butter, basil and cheese with the pasta in the same manner (the pasta should take on an orange hue) and serve immediately.
For more delicious Italian dishes, see our Italian Pasta Recipes.
What to do with all of the lovely fresh fruit in your fridge? Freeze it in a delicious sorbet! I was up at the family cottage and my sister-in-law Deborah puréed a simple berry sorbet in minutes. The next day, it emerged gorgeously frozen and fruity and doubly satisfying. As she scooped it out, I asked her where she got the inspiration from. “One day I went strawberry picking and ended up with a mountain of strawberries,” she explained. “Besides jam, I wanted to have some other use for the berries.”
The idea for Deborah’s recipe — who, it must be noted, was a hippie-esque vegan at the time — came from PETA’s Vegan College Cookbook (2009 Sourcebooks). She has since tinkered with it and made it her own, often switching up the strawberries for blueberries, raspberries, mango, and even citrus fruit. “Lemon was one of my favourite experiments,” says Deborah. “Next up, I’m trying passion fruit.”
You can use either fresh or frozen fruit, and as she has done in this most recent spin, a combination of all of your summer favourites. What’s more, the sorbet satisfies kids' and adults' tastebuds, as well as Deborah's rigorous health standards — she is a registered dietitian. “It’s the least amount of effort with the tastiest payoff,” she says.
(makes about 6 cups)
3 cups water
1-1/2 cups sugar*
2 tsp cornstarch
2 tbsp cold water
3 cups puréed fruit (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries or mango work well, or any combination)
2 limes, juiced
* If you like a less sweet sorbet, you can cut down the sugar. If you like a more tart sorbet, increase the lime juice.
Step 1: Combine water and sugar in a medium-large pot and bring to a boil.
Step 2: Mix 2 tsp of cornstarch in 2 tbsp cold water until dissolved. Add cornstarch mixture to boiling water and sugar mixture and simmer for another 2 minutes.
Step 3: Remove from heat and add puréed fruit. If you don't like seeds, strain the mixture through a fine sieve (this is recommended if using blackberries and raspberries).
Step 4: Add the juice of two limes and stir. Cool sorbet mixture to room temperature.
Step 5: Once cooled, freeze in a sealed plastic container until solid (about 6-8 hours).
Step 6: Remove from freezer and cut into chunks.
Step 7: Spoon chunks into food processor (this may need to be done in batches) and blend for a few minutes until very smooth.
Step 8: Place blended mixture back into the plastic container and re-freeze until solid. If you want a super-smooth sorbet, you can repeat the blending, just make sure you re-freeze the mixture until solid each time.
For more recipes with blueberries, strawberries and seasonal fruit — including mains, desserts and drinks — see our Summer Fruit Recipes.
1-2. Amy Rosen
The Jean-Talon market is in the middle of Montreal’s large Italian community, near the top of Boulevard Saint Laurent. After the war, there was a large wave of Italians that immigrated to Canada, and they made the area their own.
The big church is famous for its fresco of Mussolini on horseback. (The artist took some flack for that one.) The park across the street from the grand church is called Dante, and is almost as divine as the poet’s famous work. There are wrought iron trellises covered in vines, and benches upon which old men sip cappuccinos and discuss soccer scores.
Meanwhile, the Dante kitchen shop on the corner is famous not only for its impeccable range of pots and small appliances, but also for selling hunting rifles and fishing knives. Milano is an Italian superstore (since 1954) still imbued with old world grace. If it’s Italian, they’ve got it.
The area where the Jean-Talon market now sits used to be a lacrosse field, but in the 1930s the city of Montreal bought the land and turned it into a market. (Until then, locals would buy their fresh fish, tomatoes and meat off the back of a jam of trucks on rue Jean-Talon itself.) The market now spreads out over three blocks.
The producers here today are mostly from the northern part of the Island of Montreal. There’s a guy selling organic herbs, and a woman with the white radishes and micro arugula. Someone sells only asparagus. Another, simply syrup. The timing of my visit is especially fortuitous, as the market is perfumed with fresh basil and ripe strawberries. Chez Nino and Chez Louis sell mostly to restaurants; their vegetable and fruit selection are more varied and refined, their pears and pomegranates wrapped in tissue paper.
And these rainbow-like carrots reminded me of how much I love simple glazed carrots. They’re also great tossed with fresh market herbs, especially chives or dill. Here is one of my favourite carrot recipes:
2 cups carrots, sliced (not those peeled and bagged mini ones, but real, sweet carrots, sold in bunches)
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp sugar
Salt and pepper
Step 1: Put carrots in a pot with enough water to just cover them, and then spoon in the butter and sugar. Cook on high heat, uncovered, stirring every so often. They should take about 10 minutes to be tender.
Step 2: If they are cooked but there’s still some water left in the pot, drain water and put the carrots back on high heat so that the sugar and butter form a light glaze. Season will salt and pepper to taste.
In our continuing series on my quest to find seasonal fruits or vegetables and then figure out what to do with them, I was walking down College street in Toronto last week when a bushel of pickling cucumbers sitting outside my local grocer’s stopped me in my flip-flop tracks.
I was heading up to the cottage for Canada Day weekend, with visions of hot dogs and hamburgers (and even grilled cheese sandwiches) dancing in my head. There would be children to feed and entertain, and I thought homemade pickles would be the perfect fit.
However, pickles can take weeks to cure, and I had mere hours, nay, minutes on my hands.
No problem. Here's the recipe I used to prepare the pickles in a mere 60 minutes.
(makes a small bowl’s worth)
3 medium-sized fresh pickling cucumbers (in season right now)
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
1-1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
Step 1: Slice pickles lengthwise into four spears.
Step 2: In a small saucepan, bring vinegar, water, salt and sugar to a boil.
Step 3: Place prepared cucumbers and dill in a bowl and pour hot vinegar mixture over top. Let cool on the counter for an hour then put in fridge to chill. Pickles will keep for about one week (although they’re so good, they probably won’t last the day).
1-3. Amy Rosen